On the Water

April 2014

The Boat Race

06.04.14
Putney–Mortlake, River Thames, London

The annual boat race between two of Britain's most illustrious universities, Oxford and Cambridge, draws up to a quarter of a million spectators to the banks of the Thames for thrilling views of the tense action. The 2013 boat race will give Oxford an opportunity to win back the crown from Cambridge, the current champions.

The world's most famous rowing race began in 1829, when Cambridge student Charles Merivale sent a challenge to his former Harrow schoolfriend Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet) at Oxford. Today, tradition holds that the losing team each year issues a challenge to the winner for a re-match the following March or April.

The closest finish in the race's history was in 2003, when there was just a foot between the Cambridge boat and the winners, Oxford. A dead heat was recorded in 1877, but the gap between the boats was thought to be as much as 2 metres (6 ft) - there was no finishing line photography in those days.

The 6.8-km (4 miles, 374 yards) race starts out at Putney and finishes at Mortlake; spectators can watch the boat race all along the course from both sides of the river, but prime viewing spots are: Putney Bridge, Putney Embankment and the towpath in front of Bishops Park at the start; Hammersmith and Barnes towards the middle of the course; and Duke's Meadows and Chiswick Bridge at the end.

In 2012, Cambridge won one of the most eventful and controversial races to date following the appearance of a protestor in the water. Organisers, competitors and spectators alike will be hoping there is not a repeat performance in 2013.

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